Licenses (was Re: Should I add a "Micro" PDP11/73 to the Herd?)

From: Chuck McManis <>
Date: Thu Jun 22 20:14:17 2000

At 06:59 PM 6/22/00 -0400, Allison wrote:
>Consider this you buy a book, you own it to dispose of how you wish
>(sell, give or burn). You don't buy a license to read it or X many friends
>to read it. It is property.

Sigh. Allison has this part of it wrong, and it is a common problem.

The book *is* the license. The contents (words etc) are licensed to the
particular bits of paper and cover that you are holding in your hand. When
you transfer the paper, the words go with it. You are forbidden from
copying the words off the paper and putting them on to some other piece of
paper. What you *own* in the book case is some newsprint, some wax, and
some binder thread *and that is all*.

If you *MUST* use the book analogy, (and it has already appeared twice
now), understand how it would be implemented in computers:

         You license the software and it is licensed (bound) to your CPU.
         You own the CPU and may dispose of it how you wish, however if you
         give it away or burn it or throw it away, the software goes with it!
         Intel tried to make this model possible with their serial number
         scheme but the market rejected it.

So software, unlike books, is licensed to _people_. (or corporations)
because people and corporations like to be able to change their CPU and not
bother with relicensing their software. If you throw away the corporation
then the license gets thrown away too, just like if you had thrown away the

> The copyright means you can't make copies
>of it (other than limited amounts for reference with attribution) to sell
>or give away without expressed permission.

Again, this isn't quite correct. The rights to make copies of a "work"
initially rest with the creator of that work. The creator (author what have
you) can then choose to grant limited subsets of those rights (or not) to
other people. As an author I am the copyright holder, I can assign some or
all of those rights to a "publisher" who is allowed to make copies of my
work, provided they send me a fee. *EVERYTHING* works this way, everything
from books to software to music to DVDs and to ill fated Divx disks.

> Software is going the
>route of, you pay for the media, manuals and support(optional) and also
>for rights to use under specified conditions as a CONTRACT. There
>lies the difference. the manuals are property (usually) but the software is
>provided under some stipulation (even freeware!) regarding it's use.

Manuals still have copyrights, you cannot make copies of them without
permission. This is particularly true of manuals that are distributed as
PDF files. Generally you only have the write to print one copy for you own
personal use!

What most people are really upset about (even if they don't understand how
intellectual property works) is the *MARGIN* on software. Typically a
paperback book has a small margin (the physical manufacturing costs say 25%
of the price and the rest is the margin) whereas a software CD costs
perhaps 2% of the price or less.

Book authors have traditionally sold the rights to publish their works
(create copies) in paper form, without stipulating a transfer fee when the
book changes owners. They did that not because they were generous, but
because there wasn't any way they could figure out how to do it. (The
e-book guys can identify change of ownership and guess what, you can't give
your ebook to another person without them having to rebuy the book!)

Just because you have a copy of "Catcher in the Rye" it only gives you the
right to read it, not aloud at some gathering, or to put it on as a school

Anyway, I don't mean to pick on anyone, it is not unusual for people to
believe that by buying a record they somehow "own" the music that is on
that record (or CD), they don't. They have only secured the right to listen
to it as often as they would like without additional payments to the
author. For some really interesting insight into just how intellectual
property works, check out the Napster and MP3 cases that have a lot of
their material posted on various web sites.

Received on Thu Jun 22 2000 - 20:14:17 BST

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